Independence day party

Chile begins September celebrations with cueca dance competition

For the fourth year in a row, the municipality of Santiago will hold a traditional dance off as Chileans begin a month long fiesta to mark the birth of the nation. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 Category: Daily life - Music - Culture - Entertainment
Chileans learn cueca, the national dance, at an early age. Photo: mabel flores / Flickr Chileans learn cueca, the national dance, at an early age. Photo: mabel flores / Flickr

Ask any Chilean what their independence day is like and you’re likely to hear the words; carrete and cueca.


Common-knowledge for anyone who’s spent time in Chile and speaks a little Spanish, carrete refers to partying and cueca to a uniquely Chilean style of music and a dance said to represent the elaborate and seductive courtship ritual between a rooster and hen.


If you’re in the Chile this September, cueca should definitely head your must see list, along with a healthy dose of the carretes that naturally accompany it. And to get a glimpse of Chile’s most talented cueca dancers, you’ll have to wait no longer than the first day of the month, when the fourth annual Campeonato de Cueca Santiago championship kicks off.


When to carrate


While Chile’s official independence celebrations begin on September 18 and last for two days, because that falls on a Tuesday and Wednesday this year, Monday 17 has also been declared a “bridge” holiday.


So in 2012 the official fiestas patrias national holidays will last for five days. However as anyone who’s been in Chile at this time of year before can attest, the entire month of September is a one long fiesta.


Where to dance cueca


Santiago’s cueca championship, put on by the municipality of Santiago, seeks to draw interest from all generations to preserve and celebrate this important part Chile’s national heritage.


Contestants will gather at Plaza de Armas and will include four categories according to age: 6-13 years old will be at 10 a.m., 14-24 years old at 11:30 a.m., 25-50 years old at 1 p.m. and 50 and above at 3 p.m. Participation is free though contestants must be Chilean nationals with identification - and dressed in the traditional cueca outfit.


If that rules you out, don’t worry, though you may not be able to compete, Chilean’s generally love to teach foreigners to dance the cueca and chances are somebody will give you an unofficial lesson.


Participants will compete for first, second and third place in the hope of taking home a portion of the prize money, US$722.00 (CLP350,000) per category.


Expect plenty of foot stamping and handkerchief twirling! 

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